JAPANESE GUITARS: I Am Curious As To the TGP Connunity's Experience With Japanese Guitars

JAPANESE GUITARS: I __________

  • Collect/Collected

    Votes: 70 17.3%
  • Own/Owned

    Votes: 338 83.7%
  • Currently Play/Have Played

    Votes: 202 50.0%
  • Never Played

    Votes: 13 3.2%
  • Never Bothered to Check One Out

    Votes: 3 0.7%

  • Total voters
    404

Mad Wombat

Member
Messages
1,472
What are some good places in North America to find Japanese instruments?
I've been browsing Ishibashi U-Box for a while, but I'm concerned about the shipping and customs costs. I
 

anewstatic

Member
Messages
72
I own a 1982 Greco EG-450 and it's honestly fantastic. I've owned a few Gibsons over the years and my main gigging guitar was an unusually heavy ES-335 for 5 years until I made a detour to single-coils with a custom Strat I had built for me. I missed humbuckers and took a chance on the Greco, buying it on eBay straight from Japan.

The guitar felt great right out of the box. I had it professionally set up and it's been my number one for 5 years now. It's weight-relieved which I don't love but it's still about 8.5 lbs so it's heavy enough to feel like a Les Paul. I haven't even bothered to change the pickups because they're great. I highly recommend early 80's to late 80's Grecos. My buddy has an 80's Tokai Strat that he ironically got right before the John Mayer promo photo came out of him holding the same guitar. That guitar is awesome.

I bought a Burny SG a couple years ago and was not thrilled about that guitar. I wanted to love it but it just felt cheap and was too cumbersome to bond with. I heard those guitars were built by the people at the Fernandes factory in Japan but all over the internet, people say no one knows for sure where they were made.
 

anewstatic

Member
Messages
72
Where are good places to find these instruments?
I've been looking at Ishibashi U-Box for a while, but I'm waiting until I can afford something higher-end, to make the shipping costs worthwhile. I'm sure the customs folks will want a cut, too.
I bought my Greco off eBay from a seller in Japan with good ratings. I paid $120 for shipping and it showed up in two days.
 

rwhitney

Member
Messages
48
I had a mid-2000s MIJ Gretsch 1962 Country Gentleman that was superbly built. Wonderful sounding and playing guitar. Yamahas are irreproachable, though some of their lower-end models are uninspiring. I have one of their inexpensive FSX800C acoustics. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's no Collings.
 

anewstatic

Member
Messages
72
I really like this Fujigen ‘82 Greco I picked up for not much money. Replaced the electronics and plastics. Has some minor cosmetic irregularities but tonally and playability is exceptional. All in it was maybe $1000-$1100, has a long neck tenon, stock steel tailpiece bushings and studs. Stock bridge and tailpiece are fine and have a nice patina. I like it as much as any Les Paul I’ve owned, Historic or otherwise.
View attachment 271573
View attachment 271574
I have an 82' in sunburst and I agree with everything you said. We had an R7 in the shop at the time I got it and it held its own even against that.
 

Ready Freddie

Member
Messages
1
Yamaha SGV 800 is great to play - comfortable, sounds terrific and it's very Japanese.
Was lucky enough to get mine for something like $400, The very famous example of them played live - The Surf Coasters


 

meterman

Member
Messages
7,883
I've typically found MIJ guitars to be very high quality. I've got a nice collection of Ibanez from the late 70s and early 80s. A '76 2355M ES-175 copy, '77 PF100 LP copy, and two 335 type but slightly smaller ('81 AS-100 and '83 AM-50). Could never really afford Gibsons but these are the next best thing, great guitars regardless of price. The necks are amazing and very consistent from one to the other. I've also owned several MIJ Strats in the past that were very nice as well. I usually upgraded the electronics in the Strats.
 

fleabiscuit

Member
Messages
5
I own four Japanese-made Gretsch hollowbodies (Setzer Hotrod, Setzer Nashville, White Falcon Player's Edition, Horton Heat signature) and they're stellar--fit, finish, feel and tone as good as or better than anything coming out of the Fender or Gibson custom shop (I've never owned a PRS, so can't compare). Great stage guitars, too, if that ever becomes a thing again.
 

twoheadedboy

Member
Messages
11,408
I've got lots of love for MIJ guitars. I've never played a bad MIJ or CIJ Fender, and every MIJ Ibanez guitar I've owned has been great.
 

Meatpole

Member
Messages
15
I picked up a 1980 Vantage Spirit at a Goodwill thrift store for $40. I'm used to opening up guitar cases there to find First Act-quality bentnecks suitable only for drunken slide guitar out of a vintage Gorilla amp. But once I picked it up, I couldn't get it in my car fast enough. I hadn't heard of Vantage and only heard of Matsumoku in passing - I just judge on the merits of what's sitting in front of me and whether I like it.

It's a split coil les paul copy that has just the right swing when hanging from a guitar strap. I take "MIJ" as an invitation to be skeptical, like "germanium-infused" or "zero-calorie true bypass". The build quality isn't perfect, but the feel is really very good. From what I gather, the Matsu pickups are like 'em or hate 'em. I like em enough to leave em. So, the folks at Matsumoku really got some of the design details right, and much of the hardware is pretty good --- but there's usually a limitation or weakness of some kind.

Here's one of the same model now on Reverb (not my ad, not an endorsement): https://reverb.com/item/2096855-vantage-vlp-540-spirit-1979-jet-black-matsumoku-les-paul [mods lemme know if reverb links are verbotten]

Another guitar that I picked up and really liked without stopping to see what it was... was a made in India Squire II strat. It's interesting to learn the back story (or legends/myths) of these kinds of things. "No, dude that was made in Indonesia - they never made guitars in India" -- or "that guitar was made of plywood (laminated hardwood, I think) and sucks compared to these other ones". It *is* heavy compared to other Stratoclones - but I like that. So, works for me.

Of the limited number (dozen or so) MIJ I've played, I guess my takeaway is that the quality is pretty consistent. Not always blow me away great - but pretty consistently good.
 

Attachments

currypowder

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
399
I got sent down the MIJ Rabbit Hole over 15 years ago when I bought a 2003 Tokai LS-320. To this day, I have not played a LP type guitar of any brand or price level that compares. A few have come close, but those tend to be priced 2-3 times more than the Tokai.

Since then I have had hundreds of MIJ guitars pass through my hands and the bulk of my permanent collection (about 75%) are MIJ guitars. In my experience, the quality level is consistent even at the "budget" priced models. I could literally fill the pages here with pictures of MIJ guitars of many brands and price levels. Instead, I'll post the one that started it all, my prized '03 LS-320 which I will never part with. The only "mod" is the addition of a bell style truss rod cover.


 

davess23

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,387
My late 80s (?) CIJ Tele, which I've owned for about 15 years, is a fine Telecaster. I've put in Nocaster pickups and RS pots and caps. The body is light and resonant, and the neck is very comfortable. I'm really happy with it and can't see why I'd ever want or need a different Tele.
 

borducks

Member
Messages
216
I stumbled onto Ibanez at a pawn shop when I was 15 and grabbed a '83 Roadstar for about $100. I gigged the heck out of that thing, and it was such well built platform for experimenting with various pickup, wiring, fret size and whatever mods a newbie tone chaser could throw money at. I have to laugh about what I could get for it these days if I hadn't done all that.

My next purchase back then was a '76 Artist 2616. Gigged the heck out of that one, too. I know it's the prototypical jazz box, but it was a monster for power-pop/90's alternative.

It's a pity that these guitars have been consumed by the "vintage" pricing regime now. Part of their beauty was that you could step up to a solid, quality guitar second hand. But modern manufacturing means it's more about QC, so the quality/price gap is closing anyway.

I'd love to get a MIJ Artist double cutaway, but I think I'd be happy with a new MIC AR420, etc. The 335-like AS153 I got this year is MIC and feels every bit as good as my older Ibanezes.
 

wddonalds

Member
Messages
51
All of my guitars are MIJ;

Ibanez 540S (which I bought 28 years ago!)
ESP Eclipse II
Kramer Nightswan (MIJ model)

I also used to own an Edwards Les Paul which again was a fantastic guitar but I just didn’t really bond with it.
 

Chevelle

Member
Messages
271
I think Japan is building some of the very best guitars out there and has for nearly 50 years now. In the case of the higher end MIJ Jacksons like the Professional Pro series, they are pretty much indistinguishable from the USA versions of those same guitars...and because there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there you can often get a steal on one of those when someone doesn't know what they have.

I paid $187 shipped for this 1990 Jackson Fusion Professional Pro (thanks GC!). The guitar is an absolute stunner and one of the best sounding and playing guitars I own.











Nice!
 

MikeMcK

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,757
My living room guitar is an '84 MIJ Fiesta Red Strat (with Fralins and full-sized pots I swapped in when the original volume pot died) that sometimes gets out on gigs if I need a lot of Strat tones. It did a great job last week with a band that wanted Floyd, Hendrix and Dire Straits.

But one guitar I really wish I hadn't sold was one of these. It was made by Matsumoku in the '70's. The brand (Westbury) had a bunch of models but this was the only one that looked this cool. Also, that's not a Vari-tone circuit; it gave you six combinations of humbucker and single-coil, either in or out of phase.

 




Top